By Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
I am perhaps singularly alone in my disdain for MECA and the City of Omaha for first mothballing the Civic Auditorium from hosting any large concerts and now “selling” it. My disdain is (admittedly) a product of personal nostalgia, as well as loathing for The CenturyLink Center.
Yes, I saw a lot of concerts at the Civic during the heyday of “festival seating,” back when you showed up with your general admission ticket and chanted “Open the Fucking Doors! Open the Fucking Doors!” for 20 minutes while waiting to get in.
Concerts attended include the usual ’80s arena monsters — Styx, Kansas, The Cars, Journey, Van Halen and on and on. The concert experience as a whole was much funner back then. After they did open those fucking doors, you’d run in, get your seat and watch the madness going on down below. Yes, the floor, that concrete slab where people sat in circles and smoked dope as a fleet of multi-colored Frisbees glided through the smokehaze over their heads. Everyone was loaded because everyone snuck booze in. The hour leading up to the concert was as much fun as the concert itself.
But then came the concert. Say what you will about the run-down condition of the Civic and the fact that MECA and the city “let it go” after they built the great while elephant called The CLink, but I can’t remember ever having a bad seat during a concert there, no matter how far up I sat or how far back. With a capacity of only around 9,000, the Civic simply wasn’t that big, though it seemed mammoth at the time. The sound quality, well, it’s exactly what you expected from an arena show — loud as hell.
Skip this if you’ve heard this one before, but I’ve been to three concerts at The CLink — Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and The Who — all were miserable experiences both in sight and sound quality. I did have the privledge of seeing Neil Young from one of the CLink’s corporate boxes, but even that was a detached experience. I’ve had seats on the floor, on the side, in the back, no matter where I sat the sightlines sucked. The facility’s layout is simply flawed for concert-going.
Even sporting events are a drag at The CLink, at least compared to seeing them at the Civic, where it felt like you were at an E*V*E*N*T rather than an event. UNO hockey — hands down a more exciting experience at The Civic than The CLink. My caveat here: I haven’t been to a Creighton Basketball game at CLink, which I’m told is rather exciting, and I never will since I loathe Creigton’s athletic programs.
As the Civic sat empty in the distance these past few years, I couldn’t help but wonder what we were missing. Surely there is a plethora of concerts not big enough to book at CLinck but the right size for a 9,000-seat arena. When I read that the Civic “has not kept pace in booking events” (as if the structure could book itself) and that it posted a loss of $197,000 last year I wonder whose fault that was. Maybe if MECA had actually tried to book the facility they might have made some money. But they don’t want to pull attention away from their white elephant, which sits across the street from that other white elephant of a baseball park that only gets used three weeks a year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who shake their fist at the sky every time an old building gets sold and torn down. If the business is losing money and the building isn’t “historical” then the owner has a right to sell it to someone who thinks they can do better in their space. Venice Inn is a good example — if you loved the place so much, you should have eaten there more often. I ate there a couple times a year, and I’ll miss it and its salad bar, but I can’t blame the family for getting out while the getting’s good.
Ah well, maybe it’s time for the Civic to go, too. UNO is building a new right-sized arena for its hockey and there’s always the Ralston Arena if someone can figure out a way to book it. And besides, the bands I listen to these days don’t play in arenas, and probably never will… When the wrecking ball finally comes I’ll say thanks for the memories, Civic as it joins Aksarben Coliseum and Racetrac, Peony Park and the Indian Hills Theater in that great old-fashioned Omaha up in the sky…
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.